“She is well, father, thank you.”
Perceiving a great change in Agricola’s countenance, Dagobert resumed: “You look sad. Has anything gone wrong since I saw you last?”
“All is over, father. We have lost him,” said the smith, in a tone of despair.
“M. Hardy!—why, three days ago, you told me you were going to see him.”
“Yes, father, I have seen him—and my dear brother Gabriel saw him and spoke to him—how he speaks! with a voice that comes from the heart!—and he had so revived and encouraged him, that M. Hardy consented to return amongst us. Then I, wild with joy, ran to tell the good news to some of my mates, who were waiting to hear the result of nay interview with M. Hardy. I brought them all with me to thank and bless him. We were within a hundred yards of the house belonging to the black-gowns—”
“Ali, the black-gowns!” said Dagobert, with a gloomy air. “Then some mischief will happen. I know them.”
“You are not mistaken, father,” answered Agricola, with a sigh. “I was running on with my comrades, when I saw a carriage coming towards us. Some presentiment told me that they were taking away M. Hardy.”
“By force!” said Dagobert, hastily.
“No,” answered Agricola, bitterly; “no—the priests are too cunning for that. They know how to make you an accomplice in the evil they do you. Shall I not always remember how they managed with my good mother?”
“Yes, the worthy woman! there was a poor fly caught in the spider’s web. But this carriage, of which you speak?”
“On seeing it start from the house of the black-gowns,” replied Agricola, “my heart sank within me; and, by an impulse stronger than myself, I rushed to the horses’ heads, calling on my comrades to help me. But the postilion knocked me down and stunned me with a blow from his whip. When I recovered my senses, the carriage was already far away.”
“You were not hurt?” cried Dagobert, anxiously, as he examined his son from top to toe.
“No, father; a mere scratch.”
“What did you next, my boy?”
“I hastened to our good angel, Mdlle. de Cardoville, and told her all. ‘You must follow M. Hardy on the instant,’ said she to me. ’Take my carriage and post-horses. Dupont will accompany you; follow M. Hardy from stage to stage; should you succeed in overtaking him your presence and your prayers may perhaps conquer the fatal influence that these priests have acquired over him.’”
“It was the best advice she could give you. That excellent young lady is always right.”